A general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church has conveyed condolences to a U.S. church where a gunman killed nine people during a prayer meeting last week.
Delbert W. Baker, a general vice president of the General Conference, attended the Sunday service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 20, the first day it reopened for worship after the tragedy the previous Wednesday.
Among those slain was the church's senior pastor and state senator, Clementa Pinckney.
Baker said the service was among the most meaningful that he could recall attending.
“In the midst of the pain there was the evident power of forgiveness and love,” he said in a statement Thursday. “There was a stubborn and redemptive theme outlined in Psalm 30:55, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’”
Relatives of the dead have reached out to the 21-year-old suspected gunman, saying they forgave him. Authorities say the attack was racially motivated.
Baker said he noticed three recurrent messages that emerged from the church service and from his conversations with the pastoral team.
“First, God is our strength and He gives us a loving and keeping power,” he said, citing the church’s members. “Second, we will not let hate or violence interrupt or dampen the study and sharing of the Word. Third, our nine members did not die in vain — God will bring about justice and make sense of their sacrifice.”
Thousands of people of all faiths and racial backgrounds gathered outside the church before and after the service.
Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, earlier expressed his sympathy to the church and the surrounding community.
“We stand with the people of Charleston and indeed across North America that strive to be agents of peace, love, and grace in their communities,” he said in a statement.